Following the Supreme Court ruling to uphold Democrats' signature healthcare reform law, leaders in both parties sought to spin things to their advantage.
Democrats basked in vindication after two years of enduring GOP attacks that the law was unconstitutional and receiving a beating during the 2010 mid-term elections. Republicans, meanwhile, doubled-down on plans to repeal the law and held the court ruling as a call-to-arms for voters in the fall to support the effort as the last chance to stop it from taking effect.
At the top of the ticket, President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney have already staked out their separate ground on the issue – Obama said on Thursday he never pursued the reforms because it was good politics, but because it was good policy. Romney on the other hand vowed in no uncertain terms that he would seek to repeal the law if elected.
But when it comes to races down the line, things in some states are a little more muddled, particularly because though a majority of voters have a negative view of the overall law, many of the provisions of the measure are seen positively.
In North Dakota, a state expected to break strongly for Romney, the two Senate candidates are locked in a tight battle and both stepped lightly in their treatment of the healthcare law.
Democratic candidate Heidi Heitkamp had been running ads highlighting her support for the law's more popular aspects, such as banning insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, ahead of the ruling. But following the ruling, Heitkamp told the Associated Press that she would "work to keep the good pieces intact and fix the bad pieces," referencing the unpopular individual mandate, which requires people to purchase health insurance beginning in 2014 or pay a fine.
Heitkamp's Republican opponent, Rep. Rick Berg, who has voted to repeal the entire law, now says he supports some of the provisions cited by Heitkamp.
"That was stunning," says Matt Canter, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "In the wake of the ruling, Berg felt the need to distance himself from the national Republican narrative about full repeal and that's in a Republican leaning state."
And in heavily Democratic Hawaii, where former Gov. Linda Lingle is the likely Republican nominee, the candidate said Congress needs to address some issues the law failed to, but has avoided committing to repealing the law, according to an Associated Press report.
But at the national level, Republicans are crowing that the court ruling has been a fundraising boon and helps them press the advantage in states where incumbent Democrats are facing tough re-election bids.
"The stakes are now clear in this election," says Jahan Wilcox, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Democrats like Claire McCaskill, Sherrod Brown and Jon Tester will need to explain why they voted for Obamacare, which raises taxes and increases government spending and makes massive cuts to Medicare instead of focusing on the economy. So in these Senate races it's going to be the contests will be very clear between the two candidates."
Officials on both sides of the aisle, however, also agree that when the race comes back into focus in the fall – after voters check back in from their summer vacations – the top issues will remain jobs and the economy.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.
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